"What's your favorite beer?" What's your favorite beer style? These and similar questions are posed to me quite frequently. I am sure that any reader of this blog has been asked the same questions. For me, those are not answerable queries. My best answer is frequently along the lines of "this one", while pointing to the glass in my hand. The answer depends on my mood, the foods I'm eating, the season, and a host of other factors. The 2009 Brewers Association Beer Style Guidelines released recently give another reason why such a question has no easy answer. These guidelines list 138 different styles of beer!
The guide gives a brief description of each style, along with some technical minutiae such as Alcohol by Weight, IBU, and SRM. The guide does not list commercial examples of each style so anyone wanting to find an example of a specific style may have to do some more digging. The styles are grouped into Ales and Lagers, and then by country of origin. This does make it easy to compare similar styles. If you are curious as to the differences between an American-Style Strong Pale Ale, an American-Style Strong Pale Ale, or an American-Style India Pale Ale, it's here. Or perhaps you are in a debate over the what separates a South German-Style Hefeweizen from a South German-Style Kristal Weizen. The Beer Style Guidelines will help you with that dilemma too.
All kidding aside, Brewers Association Beer Style Guidelines are an interesting and informative reference. And it's available for free. Visit the Brewers Association beer styles page to download the guidelines. While you are there, be sure to look around the site. Besides style descriptions, the Brewers Association presents a wealth of beer-related information, including history and food pairing suggestions.